Strawberry Potrero via Red Box
- Location: Red Box Picnic Area, Angeles National Forest. From I-210 in La Canada, take the Angeles Crest Highway northeast for 14 miles and park at the Red Box Picnic Area, at the junction with the road to Mt. Wilson. From the high desert, take the Angeles Forest Highway south to Big Tujunga Canyon Road. Turn left and go 9 miles to the Angeles Crest Highway. Turn right and go 4.3 miles to Red Box, which will be on the left. A National Forest Service Adventure Pass ($5 per day or $30 for the year) is required for parking here. Click here to purchase.
- Agency: Angeles National Forest/Los Angeles River Ranger District
- Distance: 10 miles
- Elevation gain: 1,500 feet
- Suggested time: 5 hours
- Difficulty rating: PG-13 (elevation gain, distance)
- Best season: Year round but hot during the summer
- USGS topo maps: Chilao Flat
- Recommended gear: sunblock; sun hat; insect repellent
- Recommended guidebook: Trails of the Angeles
- More information: Trip description (pre-Station Fire) here; Map My Hike report here
- Rating: 7
It’s not El Capitan or Half Dome, but the granite cliffs on the north face of Strawberry Peak are pretty impressive, not to mention closer to L.A. than Yosemite. While Strawberry Potrero, a series of meadows on the north side of the mountain, sustained damage in the Station Fire, it’s still an enjoyable spot for a picnic; a secluded corner of the Angeles Forest in which you’re not likely to have much company. Some hikers may find the 10-mile round trip from Red Box to be somewhat long for an out-and-back hike that doesn’t pay off with a major summit or waterfall, but those looking for a leisurely stroll with good scenic variety will find that on this hike. Two caveats: poodle dog bush is abundant, particularly north of Lawlor Saddle, and the bugs at Strawberry Potrero can be extremely annoying.
Begin with the easy 2.3 mile hike to Lawlor Saddle, below Strawberry Peak’s summit, but instead of going up, take the fork heading north and gradually downhill. You descend along the mountain’s east slope, taking in great views of Big Tujunga Canyon. After a mile, you enter the first of several pockets of woodland, mainly black oaks and Coulter pines. At 4 miles from the start, a series of switchbacks drops you into the eastern end of Strawberry Potrero; this is the only really steep section of the hike.
At the bottom of the switchbacks, turn left at a junction (the right fork leads to Upper Big Tujunga Canyon Road). You enter the first of three meadows, with a good view of Strawberry Peak’s north face straight ahead. The trail then ducks back into the woods and makes a brief climb to a smaller meadow and lastly enters a large clearing, 5 miles from the start and a good turnaround point for a day hike. Several tall pines and oaks offer shade and numerous rocks scattered around make for nice places to sit and picnic (the tables mentioned in “Trails of the Angeles” unfortunately became Station Fire casualties.)
From here, retrace your steps back to Red Box; the total elevation gain is comparable in both directions. With a shuttle, you can return to the junction and continue north to Colby Ranch and Big Tujunga Canyon Road. Intrepid hikers can make a challenging loop by continuing to Josephine Saddle and using the rock-climber’s route to Strawberry Peak, then descending to Lawlor Saddle.
Text and photography copyright 2015 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.